Covid: Heathrow to trial fast-tracking vaccinated arrivals
Two of the world’s biggest airlines will trial fast-track lanes at Heathrow airport for fully-vaccinated arrivals.
Under the scheme passengers on four routes will be able to upload their vaccination status before boarding.
The trial by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic comes as the aviation industry calls for quarantine-free travel to the UK from lower-risk amber list countries.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is set to announce such a scheme this week.
The trial, due to start this weekend, will allow passengers who are fully vaccinated and are travelling on selected flights to Heathrow from Athens, Los Angeles, Montego Bay and New York to show proof of their vaccination status.
Those taking part in the trial will still have to follow all the rules according to the government’s traffic light system; book all the required tests and quarantine if they come from an amber list country.
People taking part will be able to use a dedicated arrivals lane at the UK border.
It is hoped the trial will “reassure” the government that airlines and airports can check vaccine status away from the border, which would reduce pressure on UK immigration halls.
The trial will accept internationally recognised vaccination credentials including the NHS app, CDC card, US state-level digital certification and the EU digital Covid certificate.
The move comes just days after the UK government announced that most lockdown measures in England would be eased from 19 July.
Earlier this week, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said Mr Shapps would update MPs on international travel and removing “the need for fully-vaccinated arrivals to isolate when they return from an amber list country”.
However, as cases continue to rise in the UK, health experts have highlighted that no vaccines are 100% effective.
Most popular holiday destinations are currently on the amber list, meaning that people must isolate themselves for up to 10 days on their return to the UK.
John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport, told the BBC’s Today programme: “At the moment the main barrier to people who have been doubly vaccinated travelling being allowed to do that, is being able to demonstrate to the government that we can check that they’ve had the vaccination already.
“The trial that we’re starting later this week will allow us to demonstrate we can do that safely with 100% checks on double vaccination before people get on the plane.”
Sean Doyle, British Airways chief executive and chairman, added he was “confident” the trial would be successful.
“We look forward to providing the data that proves it’s simple for fully vaccinated status to be verified and to the Government meeting its commitment to get the country moving again,” he said.
Shai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic chief executive, said the trial would demonstrate the industry’s readiness to “rapidly operationalise the new policy, and work with government and authorities to ensure it is smoothly implemented at pace, supporting the reopening of the transatlantic corridor, without which £23 million is lost each day from the UK economy”.